Gordon Hill

1 May

Its probably hard for younger fans to recognise today some of the beliefs that were common place as late as the 1960s and 70s in football. Today we live in a globalised environment where many people move from country to country and settle in with ease. Yet there was certainly a belief that Southerners had a soft centre and struggled in the North. If you look at United’s history most of the players come from Scotland, ROI, Northern Ireland and around England but rarely the south specifically London. There have been exceptions – Sadler came from Maidstone, Ian Story-Moore Ipswich although he had played for Nottingham Forest and Stepney from London. However while Manchester loved skill and individuality it has never really cared for the flash type. United tried to buy Martin Peters who has stated he wasn’t sure if the North would have been ideal for him.

The likes of Gordon Hill and Malcolm McDonald did much to change this stereotyping. Gordon was signed from Millwall for 70,000 in November 1975 and left only a few years later in 1978 for 275,000 to Derby County yet became a hero to many and a crowd favourite who epitomised the Doc’s best years at United. Gordon was certainly flash at least on a football field, an old fashioned left winger with an eye for a goal. Previously United had gone with Gerry Daly on the left a hard working midfield player. Some fans likened Hill of that era to the Cantona in the 90s. He gave the side that touch more excitement that had been lacking since Best although in no way can Hill be compared to Best as a player. He scored 39 goals in 101 games and was an excellent crosser of the ball.

“I signed the contract without looking how much I was going to be paid,” he says. “I just wanted to play for United.”

Work rate wasn’t something that interested him and he once got clipped around the ear by captain Martin Buchan for not tracking back at Old Trafford. Hill I believe wasn’t the most popular of players in United’s dressing room, he loved to do his Norman Wisdom impression but many of the players tried to bring him down a level or two. Once telling him he was wanted to do an interview for television he travelled their only to find that he had wasted his time. When he returned he never said a word.

He scored a number of important goals waiting on the edge of the penalty box during corners, the ball would sometimes come to him on the volley or half volley and he would hit a screamer in to the back of the net. His best game was almost certainly the semi final against Derby in 1976 when he scored a couple of beauties and ran the Derby defence ragged. Unfortunately the two finals at Wembley he failed to produce and was subbed on both occasions. He won 6 England caps without scoring.

Dave Sexton replace the Doc and wasn’t a fan of Hill’s he preferred his wide players to be less attacking and do more tracking back. He was replaced by Mickey Thomas who had a fantastic engine but would rarely take the fans breath away.

Gordon suffered injuries and lost a yard of pace and his form never matched that of his early days at Old Trafford.

Gordon’s nickname was Merlin after the wizard. his chant would ring around the various singing sections of Old Trafford Gordon Hill king of all cockneys -Lots of cats around Manchester got called Merlin as I remember around the mid 1970s.

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